Marc Andreessen's Ning is a platform for thousands of social networks. Mick Balaban and Spencer Forman's WidgetLaboratory builds and sells add-ons for operators of those social sites. Or did, until August 22. That's when Ning general counsel Robert Ghoorah wrote Forman to say that WidgetLaboratory would be booted from the site for breaking its rules. The charge: something about how their widgets "unduly degraded" the rest of Ning. Now, Forman's made that email — as well as 14 others between Forman, Ghoorah, and Ning CEO Gina Bianchini — available online. Trust us, you don't want to read them all. Here's the soap opera minus the froth:
Fired Reddit cofounder and noted nontrepreneur Aaron Swartz says developers shouldn't roll out software with a Hollywood-style launch, as the rock-star coders at collaboration-software makers 37 Signals say. Swartz favors "the Gmail Launch," he writes on his blog, Raw Thought. The gist of his argument, below.
The Wall Street Journal got an advance look at the Republican candidate's proposals for supporting U.S. technology. After picking through the article to figure out exactly where he stands on what, we gave it the 100-word treatment:John McCain will unveil a technology agenda that bundles previously announced pro-business proposals with continued support for a hands-off approach to regulation.
I feel sorry for Twitter founder Ev Williams. The self-appointed A-listers who've flocked to his service are building an echo chamber worse than the blogosphere circa 1999. Today's pretend crisis: Williams has set an arbitrary limit that allows most Twitter users to follow no more than 2,000 other users' updates. The hip response is to claim that of course you need way more than that. But seriously, why would anyone try to follow 3,000 Twits? I've summarized Williams's lengthy post explaining the "follow spam" problem. He left out the part where it costs you money:"Follow spam" is what happens when a Twitter user sets up an automated script to subscribe to thousands of individual users' feeds, found by crawling Twitter's pages. Follow-spammers aren't interested in reading all those people's updates. They're actually hoping their new pretend-friends will follow them back in exchange, creating an opt-in list for their messages. These may be marketing, or just personal drama. It seems like a victimless crime, but there are two problems caused by comment spam:
After sitting through 200 10-minute company pitches for his upcoming TechCrunch50 event, Mahalo Chief Opinionator Jason Calacanis emailed around a 2,500-word guide to presenting a new company and/or product, aimed at novice startup founders who haven't figured out the ropes yet. Having suffered through many such presos myself, I gave Calacanis Valleywag's highest honor: an edit.
We didn't even have to condense the latest statement Waggener Edstrom uberflack Frank Shaw sent on Yahoo chairman Roy Bostock's comments at today's shareholder meeting about Microsoft's botched negotiations to buy Yahoo: "Yahoo is attempting to rewrite history yet again with statements that are not supported by the facts.” The three-word version: "So's your mom."
"Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization" is the new cover story from Adbusters. If you're not familiar, Adbusters is a fun, angry, Starbucks-hating publication whose credo states that we've all been brainwashed by advertising and mass media into an orgy of overconsumption that lets the American Empire destroy the rest of the world to feed our fat faces. I buy it at Whole Foods.
Career crank Nicholas Carr's cover story for The Atlantic asks, "Is Google making us stupid?" Oh come on, Google chief Eric Schmidt told an AdAge-sponsored conference in New York. They said that about color TV forty years ago. You can watch Schmidt here, or you can pull up your pants and read Carr's 4,000-word feature. But more likely you'd prefer my 100-word excerpt:
Web 2.0 wunderkinds Tara Hunt and Chris Messina hooked up, broke up, and now leave their company and a San Francisco magazine profile behind. Can Internet People run their relationships like their businesses?, we're meant to wonder, the tease of a question splayed out against the story's backdrop of conference-going glamor, multiblogged dates, and come-ons delivered in the form of schwag T-shirts. We 100-worded it so you can get back to Twittering about the lover you're not quite ready to leave yet:
Twitter needs help staying up. Maybe that help is you! But before taking that job offer — or an offer from any startup — Venture Hacks has 10 questions you should ask. We've condensed their list down from 1,250 words to a version you can read comfortably on your iPhone 3G before your next interview, below.
Have you noticed that you don't always get the exact terms you searched for anymore on Google? Instead of oh-so-literal keyword matching and filters such as +site:valleywag.com, Google lines up a team of technologies that try to guess what you're really looking for. Information retrieval specialist Amit Singhal walked through them in a Google Blog post . I edited out 80 percent of the verbiage — mostly by deleting the term world class every time it popped up — and left in the technical parts.
Over the past month, Facebook has shown itself to have a quicker trigger when it comes to banning applications from its site for rule violations. It's part of the reason, observers say, that venture capital for Facebook-app startups is slowing down. The punished include apps from major developers RockYou and Slide. But they also include guys like developer Dan Abelon, who saw his popular SpeedDate widget booted from the platform for a couple hours earlier this month. Abelon told Inside Facebook what other application developers should do to make sure the same doesn't happen to them. The bullet points — which paint a picture of Facebook as a fairly ruthless enforcer — are below, trimmed to give widgetmakers more time to call those VCs who suddenly all seem to be on vacation all the time.
Snake, meet tail. The voyeuristic ouroboros that is Julia Allison's love affair with Valleywag got even more play in her coveted Wired cover story than her own startup did. Don't let us waste your time when you could be hustling us for fame; here's the 100-word version of her "secrets" to self-promotion.
In today's Los Angeles Times, reporter Jessica Guynn calls LinkedIn founder, Facebook investor and PayPal veteran Reid Hoffman "Silicon Valley's biggest social networker." Guynn means that just the way you'd think, reporting that Hoffman gains about 10 pounds per year, refuses to see a trainer and "doesn't step on scales." Some might deem Guynn's language rude, but since Hoffman's unhealthy-seeming weight is exactly the kind of thing everyone in the Valley won't admit they talk about, we're rather glad she called attention to it. Fortunately for Hoffman, Persai cofounder Ted Dziuba is ready with an intervention. Lately, Dziuba's been writing servicey items about coder life on TedDziuba.com instead of eviscerating TechCrunch-covered startups on Uncov. A recent post is perfect for the rotund Hoffman. But at 725 words, "An engineer's guide to weight loss," the busy Hoffman will never take the time to read it. Below, a slimmer, 100-word version Hoffman can squeeze into his schedule.
Google has come under increasing fire for a lack of transparency in how it does everything — from keeping porn off YouTube to calculating advertising rates to determining which search results go where. I may personally distrust the wise benevolence of markets, but information asymmetry is a time-tested business tactic. In an article comparing the applied economics of Microsoft in the PC era and Google in the Internet era, the New York Times gets more of the same blather from the Googleplex regarding the enigma wrapped inside a puzzle wrapped inside the algorithm from Hal Varian, Google's in-house rent-a-quote economics guru: